COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Endorsed Democrat Ed FitzGerald faces a May primary contest against Larry Ellis Ealy, a challenger of the establishment — particularly police and judges — who has filed dozens of lawsuits in Ohio courts.
Democratic candidates for Ohio governor
The Associated Press
Here's a look at the Democratic contenders for governor:
NAME: Edward O'Donnell FitzGerald
AGE: 45. Born July 10, 1968.
EDUCATION: B.A., The Ohio State University, political science; J.D., Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
OCCUPATION: Cuyahoga County Executive, since 2011.
CAREER: Mayor of Lakewood, 2008-2010; Lakewood city council, 2000-2008; Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor, 1994-1995, 1999-2004; special agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1995-1998.
FAMILY: Wife, Shannon (md. Dec. 28, 1991); four children, Jack, Connor, Colleen and Bridget.
NAME: Larry Ellis Ealy Sr.
AGE: 51. Born Jan. 5, 1963.
EDUCATION: Roth High School, Dayton. Law classes at various universities.
OCCUPATION: Civil rights activist, uncompensated.
CAREER: Employed as tow truck driver, local factory worker, and in retail. Ran unsuccessfully for Dayton mayor in 2009.
FAMILY: Legally separated from wife, Belinda. Nine sons, one daughter.
SOURCE: AP Research
The winner faces Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich this fall in one of the nation's most closely watched gubernatorial races.
FitzGerald, 45, of Lakewood, was elected to lead populous Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, in 2011. Voters selected the former FBI agent and assistant county prosecutor to clean up and rebuild government after a corruption scandal. Republicans challenge FitzGerald's claims that he has put the county back on strong ethical footing.
Ealy, 51, of Trotwood, is a self-declared civil rights activist known in the Dayton area for his dozens of scuffles with police and other officials. Currently unemployed, he ran unsuccessfully for Dayton mayor in 2009.
Ealy and running mate Ken Gray, of Cincinnati, entered the race on filing day. Ealy has no campaign website, has reported no fundraising and operates his campaign from a personal cellphone. Those are signs the candidate has little chance of besting the well-funded and amply staffed FitzGerald campaign on May 6.
At last report, FitzGerald had about $1.4 million on hand, compared with Kasich's $7.9 million.
FitzGerald's running mate is Yellow Springs lawyer Sharen Neuhardt, who has offered geographic and gender diversity to the ticket after an earlier running mate was forced to step aside amid revelations of outstanding business and personal tax liens.
Neuhardt, a former congressional candidate, has appeared mostly separately from FitzGerald as the two blanket the state in campaign appearances and fundraising events.
They have offered key contrasts to Kasich in the areas of women's health and abortion rights and in calling for more transparency at JobsOhio, the private job-creation office championed by Kasich and controlled by his appointees.
Ealy said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that he wants to legalize marijuana and create a new tax base from it to help educate and house the homeless. He said that if elected, he would relaunch a high-speed rail project that was abandoned when Kasich took office. The federal government had allotted $400 million for passenger train service linking Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, a project supported by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland but killed by Kasich.
Ealy, who is black, said he was running for office because he believes minorities are being oppressed and enslaved.
"This is why I'm making the move that I'm making, so I can free black people from oppression and the poor as well," he said.
Court dockets from around the state show that Ealy has been the subject of dozens of civil and criminal charges over the years.
He has challenged sheriffs, mental health officials and judges in court, over charges faced by him or one of his family members, so often he's been declared a "vexatious litigator."
Ealy said many of the cases are a result of a pattern in which "the Dayton police are designed to use force against African-Americans."
Ealy acknowledged that voters might know little about him but said they also might not know much about FitzGerald.
"I didn't know he was running until mid-December," he said. "I just happened to Google the Internet and see who was all running for governor and then there his name was. So I don't know nothing about the guy. All I know is that he's a Cleveland executive."
Associated Press writer Ann Sanner contributed to this report.